Ombudsman called in to get Stepney’s 90ft Thames mural back for public

Thames mural used to be in Ben Johnson Road in Stepney

Thames mural used to be in Ben Johnson Road in Stepney - Credit: Craig Bragdy Design

Campaigners trying to get a 90ft ceramic street mural returned to its public location in London’s East End after it was removed by contractors are to lodge a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.

They are appealing to get the mural, which was created 11 years ago by internationally-renowned artist Jean Powell outside Stepney Green School, returned to Ben Jonson Road or a site nearby so the public have access again.

The unique artwork depicting scenes along the Thames vanished several weeks ago and has since been re-sited at the back of the school playground—out of public view.

It infuriated former Stepney Green head teacher Sean McGrath when he discovered it had been taken away.

He contacted Tower Hamlets council to get it back—but says he’s being ignored.

“We are going ahead with the Ombudsman as there’s been no attempt by the mayor or council to respond,” he said this-evening.

“They won’t engage with or respond reasonably to a wide variety of people who have asked that the mural remain on public view and not be hidden inside the school.”

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The Bishop of Stepney and the artist herself both wrote to the mayor earlier this month—but have had no response.

The artist recruited 800 pupils and staff in 2002 to design the tiles showing the river winding its way through colourful buildings along the foreshore.

It was part of Stepney’s Ocean housing estate regeneration and was commissioned by the New Deal for Communities Board which mostly funded it.

Critics are calling for the artwork to be restored in public again and have suggested the nearby Stepney city farm once the temporary Crossrail construction site closes.

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